Skip to Content

How Does Solar Energy Work? Benefits, Cost, and More

Eco Activism

Last Updated on April 11, 2024

How does solar energy work? In this post we explore the benefits, cost, and more of this renewable power source.

There are misconceptions about the sustainability, reliability, and cost of solar energy. So those with the option may be left to wonder: is solar power worth it? Does the current electricity system even need help? To resolve these questions, I’m explaining all the nitty gritty details. How does solar energy work? What are the benefits of solar energy? Is it expensive? Learn the many benefits of solar panels and solar energy as a whole.

Solar panels in a field with overlay text reading "Is solar energy worth it?"

This post was sponsored by Vote Solar, a nonprofit that advocates for a just 100% clean energy transition. All thoughts and opinions are my own; for more information please see my disclosure policy.

Vote Solar has created a complete guide to going solar from saving money and becoming energy independent to reducing pollution and protecting the environment!

is solar power worth it

I don’t own my home, but I’ve been dreaming about having a place all to myself. I dream of a lush veggie garden, a gray water system, solar panels, and a battery to keep it sustainably powered all night long. And, while I’m stoked about having a positive impact, I’ve wondered if the savings are really there… I mean, is solar energy worth it?

After all, solar can be a large investment so it’s pretty understandable to ask, “Is it actually going to save money?”

Recently, I’ve been working on a series called Save Money, Save the Planet. I first started Going Zero Waste out of financial necessity. I was just trying to save a buck or two, and only later I found out that many of the financially sound practices I picked up weren’t only better for me but also better for the planet.

The more I learned about climate change and its adverse effects on people, our eco-systems, animals, and more, the more committed I became to reducing my own carbon footprint and impact on the planet.

It’s no secret our homes are one of the single largest emitters of greenhouse gasses, from their construction to energy use. What may be less of a secret is that switching to clean energy — more than recycling or biking to work — can have the biggest impact on reducing your own carbon footprint!

And, one way to create sustainable energy and reduce your dependency on fossil fuels is to go solar. Not only will you make a big impact in the fight against climate change, but you’ll save money and gain energy independence!

How does solar energy work? Solar workers installing solar panels in a field.

how does solar energy work:

Solar energy is radiant light and heat from the sun that is harnessed using a range of ever-evolving technologies such as solar heating, photovoltaics, solar thermal energy, and more!

It’s clean. It’s renewable. It’s responsible for creating lots and lots of jobs. Clean energy is one of the fastest growing sectors in the U.S. — talk about a win for our economy and the planet!

But, that’s just a few of the benefits of solar energy. Let’s talk about more ways you can directly benefit from solar.

benefits of solar energy:

  • Long-term value: Solar panels have lifespans as high as 30 years (longer, if properly maintained). A substantial amount of the initial purchase and installation fee can be reduced by the long-term savings on your electric bills. 
  • Low maintenance costs: You really only need to worry about cleaning them a couple of times a year, as there is no typical wear and tear. 
  • Tax incentives: Solar panels are eligible for tax deductions at the state and federal level. You should be aware that these deductions are dependent on your location and the size of your system. Fortunately, there are also financing options available if you need assistance. 
  • Increase of home value: Outside of that killer new hydroponic garden you installed in your backyard, having a solar panel increases the evaluation price of your home because of the long-term savings, tax incentives, and environmental benefits it provides. 
  • Reduced utility bills: How much you actually save will depend on the size of the system and your electricity usage. What’s more, is that you can potentially receive payments for surplus energy that goes unused.
  • Freedom! Paired with storage to hold onto your excess solar power, you can decrease your reliance on the big electricity grids and ensure you have energy independence, especially if you live in a place with blackouts from extreme weather. 

RELATED: 8 Tips for Eco-Friendly Apartment Living

Benefits of solar energy: a home with solar panels on the roof.

how does solar energy work if I live in an apartment?

Ok, but how does solar energy work if I live in an apartment, townhome, or condo? I get it, I live in an apartment too. So how does solar energy work for those of us who share roofs? While I can’t put solar panels directly on my own roof, I can still get involved in the clean energy transition!

That’s why I’m so excited to share the work of Vote Solar with you. They advocate for state-level policies to build a strong, just, and inclusive 100% clean-powered future!

They’re working to advance clean energy progress in state legislatures where most decisions about electricity are made. And, they work mostly in these five areas:

Ever since I got involved in local government in 2016, I’ve been passionate about making it easier for others to get involved. If we want to see a long lasting environmental movement, grassroots organization at the local government level is VITAL. And educating our communities and legislators about the benefits of solar energy is where it has to start.

RELATED: How to Get Involved in Local Government

Vote Solar partners with local communities to expand solar access, lower solar costs, and build political power for a just and inclusive clean energy system that benefits EVERYONE and not just the interest of our monopolized utility companies.

The best news is, that you don’t have to own your home to be a solar energy advocate!

Benefits of solar panels on a house - a home with solar panels on the roof.

how can can I be a solar energy advocate?

One of the best ways is to hold your legislators’ feet to the fire! Call, email, text, and make sure that clean energy initiatives that are designed to benefit EVERYONE are on the top of the agenda. If you don’t know where to start with this, I would love to have you join me for one of my live legislator writing sessions on Instagram. We do them every month!

And, Vote Solar has a great tab on their website dedicated to helping you take action. It will keep you up-to-date on the energy legislation in your area.


Is solar power worth it? Solar panel fields.

the financial benefits of solar panels:

The cost of solar varies wildly, so it’s hard to give you an exact expectation. However, I can give a quick breakdown based on averages of the financial benefits of solar panels for your home.

The benefits of solar energy extend beyond broad environmental factors and into personal factors. For starters, solar panels improve the value of your home, benefiting you in the event of a sale, refinance, or home equity loan.

Secondly, if you produce more electricity than you use, you may actually receive money back to you, turning your environmentally conscious investment into a money making venture!

As of 2024, the most common type of solar panel is monocrystalline because they tend to be the most efficient and cost anywhere from $1 to $1.50 per watt. The kilowattage needed to power your home will vary by size, location, and even city, but most homes need about 6kW to appropriately power their homes needs.

This puts the average cost at $12,700 after the federal tax credit is applied. That’s a hefty upfront investment, so what does that mean for money saved?

An average household can save about $1,500 a year on utility costs by installing solar, which means your units will pay for themselves in 8-10 years. Depending on your roof size and electricity usage, though, you could save upwards of $3,000/year, doubling your return on investment.

Of course, this is only taking into account federal tax credits. Getting involved locally to push for statewide and local incentives could make going solar more achievable than ever. So, you answer me: is solar power worth investing in? I think that answer is a resounding yes!

is solar energy worth it? I think so

We know that going solar is worth it. You’ll be saving money and reducing emissions. So, if you’re able to put solar on your own home, I applaud you.

But, whether you’re in that position or not, you can still advocate for just, clean energy for EVERYONE. Individual action is awesome, but collective action is powerful!

I’ve always said that we need policy, businesses, individuals, groups, and organizations all moving at the exact same time — and this is a perfect example of how raising our voices and banding together can create a better and cleaner future for everyone.


how much do solar panels increase the value of your home?

On average, solar panels on your home increase their appraisal by 4.1%, according to one study by Zillow. That can be tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the value of your home!

how long do solar panels last?

Solar panels last between 20-30 years, which is much longer than the average HVAC or AC unit lasts! You can squeeze about 40 years out of high quality panels.

If it takes you 8 years to pay off your panels, this means you can count on more than 2 decades of solid utility cost savings before having to worry about replacing them! And the technology is only going to improve with time, which further proves the benefits of solar panels are countless.

do solar panels require a lot of maintenance?

As far as utility products go, solar panels are pretty low maintenance. The most common issue is residue and dirt buildup. Maintenance cleaning resolves this issue, and how often you need to do so depends on the climate and environment in which you live. For many places, bi-annually does the trick!

So what do you think? Is solar energy worth it?

I’d like to give a huge shoutout and thank you to Vote Solar for sponsoring this post. For more information on how you can get involved in creating a solar powered world, head to their website

Join The Conversation

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *